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The Iconic WWI Vehicle That Paved the Way for Modern Cars

The D-Type Vauxhall, or “25hp,” was used as transportation for royalty and high-ranking commanders throughout the war. Vauxhall

Vauxhall

H.M. King George V arrives at Vimy Ridge, a battle site in northeastern France. Vauxhall

Vauxhall

At its peak, Vauxhall was producing eight D-Types per week. Vauxhall

Vauxhall

Before dedicating production to the war effort, Vauxhall had been winning hill climbs and track races throughout Britain. Vauxhall

Vauxhall

Of the dozens produced, only two D-Types survive to this day. Vauxhall

Vauxhall

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The D-Type Vauxhall, or “25hp,” was used as transportation for royalty and high-ranking commanders throughout the war. Vauxhall

Vauxhall

H.M. King George V arrives at Vimy Ridge, a battle site in northeastern France. Vauxhall

Vauxhall

At its peak, Vauxhall was producing eight D-Types per week. Vauxhall

Vauxhall

Before dedicating production to the war effort, Vauxhall had been winning hill climbs and track races throughout Britain. Vauxhall

Vauxhall

Of the dozens produced, only two D-Types survive to this day. Vauxhall

Vauxhall

World War I was shaped by new vehicles—planes, cars, tanks, zeppelins—that fundamentally changed warfare. The conflict also pushed the development of those technologies and put them through some of the toughest tests imaginable, either proving their worth or forcing their proponents to abandon them for another new idea. One hundred years after the start of the war, we’re taking a look back at the most remarkable vehicles of the conflict.

When the First World War began in July 1914, the automobile was in the middle of its awkward teen years. The vehicles had popped up in the hands of the wealthy and early adopters, and Henry Ford had just started mass production of the Model T. But getting around on horseback was still the go-to mode of transportation. The war helped change that.

The skinny-wheel car we’re looking at here didn’t see front line action, but it was one of the defining vehicles of the combat. The Vauxhall D-Type, or “25hp,” which first rolled off the production line in 1915, crossed battlefields on the Western Front (modern Germany, Luxembourg, and Belgium), Egypt, and Russian Empire. It had a 4-cylinder 3,969cc engine that could take five passengers to just over 60 mph.

Reserved for use by military higher-ups, the D-Type offered an appealing alternative to traveling through conflict zones by horse. Back in the day when comparing engine power to horse power was really relevant, 25 hp was a big deal. The animals were likely even more excited: About 8 million horses died in the four years of fighting, and it’s safe to assume the 1,500 D-Types produced for the military kept that number from going a bit higher. How the car’s bicycle tires made it over roads that barely earned that name, we’re still flummoxed, but the its solid chassis and durable engine proved a winning combination. At the insistence of the British war offices, Vauxhall produced up to seven of these vehicles a week.

By 1916, they were cranking out about eight a week, which was just the right number. Armies were careful to avoid over-reliance on machines, which required tools to be on-hand, and which, if they broke down, could immobilize valuable cargo. Horses and ground armies still had their place, and the Vauxhall was used to transport VIPs. (Another British creation of the era, the Mark I tank, had more combat-related duties.) Even in that minor role and with those skinny tires, the car worked. According to Vauxhall literature, a gunner on a D-Type in 1916 said, “The old Vauxhall will go on being bumped, swamped, bogged, and perhaps shelled; but its work is to help win the war, and it does it with a good heart.”

One of only two D-Types that survive today, the car pictured here appeared in Steven Spielberg’s film War Horse, once drove King George V around northern France, and will take part in centenary commemorations of the war in Britain.

Article source: http://www.wired.com/2014/07/world-war-one-automobile/

32 cars damaged in Lake STL apartment fire

Chief Mike Marlo with the Wentzville Fire Department talks about a carport fire at a Lake Saint Louis apartment complex.

Article source: http://www.ksdk.com/story/news/local/2014/07/28/lake-st-louis-apartment-car-fire/13258757/

Cheap Speed Challenge: Best car for practical fun?

JOLIET, Ill. — Corner 1, Lap 1. The few moments it took to get there after leaving the pit lane are how long it took to realize this multicar challenge would be the best of all for sheer fun.

Many of the regular head-to-head market segment showdowns that USA TODAY does with Cars.com and PBS TV’s MotorWeek involve more mainstream vehicles — midsize sedans, compact SUVs, minivans.

THE WINNER IS: Cheap Speed Challenge results, car-by-car evaluation

SHOPPING TOOLS: More details, pricing, comparison tools at Cars.com

Evaluating them is useful to shoppers — those are the high-volume sellers — and satisfying to the judges. But they don’t get your heart thumping.

Not this time.

The Cars.com/USA TODAY/MotorWeek $30,000 Cheap Speed Challenge was brimming with excitement.

We wanted to see which automakers could provide honest, sporty performance in a car you might actually be able to afford — and further, to see how practical it would be in daily duty.

Face it, it’s no trick to tickle every enthusiast’s nerve with a $70,000 Jaguar F-type. But it’s a stunning engineering accomplishment to come close for less than half that price — and throw in a back seat and cargo space for good measure.

How do you execute that mission? Coupe, sedan or hatchback? Front-wheel drive? Rear drive? All-wheel drive? Turbocharger? Manual transmission? Automatic?

Yes. All of the above, in varying combinations.

The Cheap Speed Challengers ranged from the diminutive Scion FR-S sports coupe that barely has a back seat, to the bigger and very powerful Subaru WRX four-door sedan with room enough in front and back to tote friends or family and to be your only car.

Styling ranged from the out-there looks of WRX and Nissan Juke Nismo to the ordinariness of the Kia Forte5 hatchback.

The cars varied almost unimaginably; no commodity cars here.

We deliberately excluded pure two-seaters, such as the Mazda MX-5 Miata, because we wanted to test cars with at least a modicum of practicality.

What we didn’t expect — Challenge judges being the sort of folks who often drive ‘em like we stole ‘em — was the terrific fuel mileage we got. Four of the eight Challengers had tallies in our real-world mileage test of more than 220 miles of highway, suburban and a little city driving that was higher than those cars’ official EPA highway rating. The other four weren’t far off. That surprise and made the cars fit the “cheap” part of the Cheap Speed formula better than expected.

The nature of the cars also begged for some time on a racetrack to sort the truly sporty from the pretenders. The Autobahn Country Club track here was just the ticket.

Ten were invited; eight made it.

Mini said it couldn’t find a Cooper priced less than the $30,000 cap. And the Honda Civic Si coupe suffered a ruined tire that couldn’t be replaced in time for the track, which excluded it from the score card.

We did drive the Honda on a regular route, back-to-back with the other contenders. And we had our “real person” cycle through it.

We suspect it would have finished high if it had been available for track time to compare to the others there.

Who buys such cars? Along with the expert judges, all of our Challenges include, as a reality check, a consumer judge in the market for the type of vehicle being tested. And in this case, our “real person” is a perfect example of the buyer for such cars:

Joe Weiss, 38, who lives in Chicago — not the suburbs, the South Loop. He works for a start-up social media company.

He drives a 2010 Mini Cooper S and is planning to replace it with exactly the sort of car in our Cheap Speed Challenge.

He also promised his fiancée, Erica Reynders, that he’d commit to an earlier wedding date if she would learn how to drive a manual transmission and agree their car would be a stick.

“Never should have done it. Now I can’t b.s. her anymore. She took to it like crazy,” he said.

The eight Challenge cars prove it’s possible to buy a car for less than $30,000 that’s extraordinarily fun, still more-or-less handy enough to use as a daily driver and notably easy on fuel.

It also illustrates that there’s no one best way to accomplish that.

Each car was scored in 10 categories, including track manners, by veteran auto journalists and by Weiss. Points also were given for drag-strip acceleration and fuel economy.

The overall winner in the scoring was the 2015 Volkswagen GTI, and Weiss’ personal choice was the Subaru WRX. — see here for details of the competition, the final ranking and the judges’ evaluation of each car.

Here are some personal thoughts on each model, written before the overall scores were tabulated, presented in alphabetical order:

• 2014 Fiat 500 Abarth ($25,995): Cramped, tech-deficient, pricey for what you get. Five-speed stick in a world of six-speeds. Sound and fury signifying very little. Hit the showers, buddy.

• 2014 Ford Fiesta ST ($25,610): Track star, road ruffian. If Ford could fix the harsh ride without compromising the sporting attributes, it’d be hard to beat.

• 2014 Hyundai Veloster Turbo ($27,260): Weird. A three-door coupe — really? And a matte-gray finish that’ll confound the world’s car waxers.

But nice behind the wheel. Stable, predictable on the road course, quick, satisfying, roomy, composed as a daily driver.

Gearshift offers short, firm throws from gear-to-gear that lends a hopped-up car feel.

• 2014 Kia Forte5 CQ SX Turbo ($26,865): Sport Lite character made it nobody’s first choice for a racetrack dance partner. Our first comment upon finishing track laps: “Thank goodness.”

Body lean, modest engine power, uncooperative automatic transmission are buzz-kills.

For everyday driving, though, it’s great: roomy, comfortable, quick enough to satisfy real-world demands.

• 2014 Nissan Juke Nismo RS ($28,345): Ugly, edgy, pricey, jerky. Next in line, please.

• 2014 Scion FR-S ($28,642): Ice cream on a hot day; refreshing, satisfying, tasty. Ride’s pretty rough, though. Only rear-drive car in the Challenge.

• 2015 Subaru WRX ($29,290): Roomy enough to be your only car. It has a lot more power than the others in the Challenge and could hit 100 mph in sections where the others could manage 90 to 95 mph. Corner-calming, all-wheel drive seems to work well on the racetrack.

But after the track workout — endured by all the Cheap Speed contenders — the WRX brakes were permanently weakened and borderline unsafe in regular driving. The clutch became harder to push and engagement became increasingly jerky.

The WRX was a pre-production car, so some parts might have been a bit off-measure. But problems with serious systems such as brakes and clutch leave us quite wary.

• 2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI S ($26,915): Best all-around sport sedan in the group. Very quick, solid performer on the track, laudable road manners in daily driving. Seems the very definition of what a modern, affordable, practical — yet very sporty — vehicle should be.

And, remarkably, it was not the high-price entry in this group.

Article source: http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/cars/2014/07/28/cheap-speed-carscom-motorweek-track-road/12652661/

Antique cars find an unlikely home in Interior community of Fairbanks

FAIRBANKS – A vast number of antique cars have found their home in the unlikely locale of Fairbanks.

Opened in 2009, the Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum bills itself as a world-class car collection nestled in the Interior community. Museum manager Willy Vinton said visitors are “absolutely blown away” by the collection. But the museum still struggles to get people to walk through the doors, owner Tim Cerny said in early July.

‘A home in a remote place’

The museum is concealed among the Wedgewood Resort’s 27 acres in a warehouse-type building. Finding it takes a little work. One drives through several parking lots, chasing signs that point toward the museum, to get there.

Inside, dozens of cars are on display, spaced out evenly in the windowless museum. Garage doors on the front and back entrances allow the cars to come and go. During the summer months, the museum parades the cars around the Wedgewood’s property for visitors, Cerny said.

Cerny, president of Fountainhead Development Inc., is proud of the collection he has compiled in the Interior community: “You sort of have to pinch yourself, you know, and go, ‘This car is in Fairbanks, Alaska.’ ”

“These cars have found a home in a remote place,” Cerny said.

The museum follows a historical timeline starting in the late 1800s. The oldest car in the collection, an 1898 Hays Motor Vehicle — the only vehicle of its kind ever built – starts the tour. A hulking 1936 yellow Packard completes it.

The collection includes seven cars that are the only known vehicles of their kind left in existence.

“Each car we have adds something technological to what was happening in the automobile industry,” Cerny said. From horseless carriages to steam-driven cars to electric cars, nearly all of the vehicles are fully operational, Cerny said. Sometimes such restorations take years to complete, he added.

Along the museum’s walls, blown-up black and white historical Alaska images follow the timeline, and antique fashions are displayed in between the cars.

Vinton pointed to a display of hats from the turn of the 20th century. The hats are decorated elaborately, not just with feathers but with actual stuffed birds, Vinton explained.

“In a nine-month period in London alone, they used almost a quarter-million birds,” Vinton said. He explained that the detrimental fashion trend spurred the creation of the Audubon Society.

Providing such historical context is one of the museum’s founding principles, Cerny said. With historian Nancy DeWitt on staff, the museum is constantly trying to update its knowledge of early 20th century history, especially in relation to Alaska, Cerny said.

The museum maintains an active blog, and in February, it won the Antique Automobile Club of America’s award for outstanding achievement in the preservation of automotive history.

‘He had never seen a car before’

One car stands out amid the gleaming automobiles. Sitting on a raised platform, Alaska’s first-ever car is on display, a makeshift vehicle with chipped red paint and crooked tires that was constructed in 1905 by Skagway resident Bobby Sheldon.

“He had never seen a car before in his life,” Vinton said. “So he built this from stories and pictures he had seen.”

Sheldon built the car with hopes that his mechanical prowess would capture the heart of a young woman. Sheldon didn’t end up winning her over, Vinton said, but he earned his place in history.

The entire car was constructed with reused materials, Vinton said. The seats were fashioned from two bar stools, the engine fished out of a sunken boat in the Skagway harbor.

The car is on permanent loan from the University of Alaska Museum of the North and is one of the few that the Fountainhead Auto Museum doesn’t take out on the streets during summer months.

‘People were so excited about it’

Although the museum boasts an impressive collection, it’s always searching for the next big find, Cerny said. Vinton flies around the country regularly, attending auctions and checking out private collections.

Cerny has spent years hunting down the vehicles. He’s meticulously arranged the museum’s lighting to reflect the “true color” of the vehicles, he said. He wasn’t sure of the total worth of all the cars in the museum, noting that prices can vary greatly at auction. His closest estimate of the collection’s’ value was millions of dollars.

The cheapest vehicle the museum has purchased was a 1908 Brush for $18,000. The car belonged to actress Gilda Gray, who was known as the “shimmy queen,” Vinton said.

“It you ever drove the car, you’d understand where she learned to do the shimmy,” he laughed.

The most expensive car in the collection is an 1933 Auburn Boattail Speedster, purchased for roughly $475,000, Vinton said.

Cerny said he is most interested in vehicles hailing from the early stages of the emerging industry.

“People were so excited about it, not unlike the Internet today,” Cerny said. “It was an interesting time.”

Thousands of car manufacturers were experimenting with technologies before the 1930s, he said. A select few, such as the Ford Motor Co., emerged as today’s car manufacturers, while others made only a few vehicles before walking away bankrupt.  

Cerny said that once people walk in the door, “we have them.” Yet the museum sometimes struggles to attract visitors. Without advertising, he said, some just aren’t aware that it exists. Word of mouth has helped, he said, noting that the museum is the top-rated attraction in the Interior community on the popular website Trip Advisor.

During summer months, the museum is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday. During the winter (starting Sept. 15), the museum is open Sundays from noon to 6 p.m. Admission is $10 for ages 13 and up. Children ages 6-12 get in for $5, and children 5 and under are admitted free.  

Article source: http://www.adn.com/article/20140726/antique-cars-find-unlikely-home-interior-community-fairbanks

Cars spray painted for parking jobs

A vandal in New York is lashing out at drivers for their parking skills. Residents hope the vandal is caught before another vehicle is ruined.

Article source: http://www.ksdk.com/story/news/local/2014/07/25/new-york-cars-spray-painted-parking/13196029/

Broke? Take a look at the Top 10 cheapest cars


A few years ago, there were still a couple of car models that had starting prices below $10,000. Not now. Finding the cheapest new car can be a tougher hunt.

But with the average prices of cars continuing to climb, it’s worth taking a look at the cheapest new cars available out there. And it a timely question, since just this week Toyota launched a newly redesigned version of its cheapo entry, the Yaris. Its starting price will be $15,670, including shipping.

To figure out what’s available, Cars.com compiled a list of the most inexpensive cars currently for sale, including destination charge.

And the winner of the cheapest car contest is the Mitsubishi Mirage, a car so basic that The New York Times published a devastating review that said it “lowers expectations, strangles them and buries their remains in a deep unmarked grave. If this car wasn’t disappointing, it wouldn’t be anything at all.” Thankfully, there are a few other models within a couple of thousand dollars of it.

Cars.com says operating costs need to be factored in, and Mirage still wins on that basis. In compiling its lists of cheapest cars, Cars.com insisted that each of them have power windows and door locks, which are often standard these days, as well as Bluetooth capability and USB ports. Prices include the Bluetooth option on the Mitsubishi and Mazda2.

Here’s the list:

1. 2015 Mitsubishi Mirage DE — $15,115

2. 2014 Chevrolet Spark 1LT — $15,820

3. 2014 Nissan Versa SV — $16,340

4. 2014 Scion IQ — $16,420

5. 2014 Mazda2 Sport — $16,630

6. Toyota Yaris LE — $16,825

7. 2015 Honda Fit LX — $17,115

8. 2014 Nissan Versa Note SV — $17,340

9. 2014 Ford Fiesta SE — $17,500

10. 2014 Kia Rio EX — $17,600

Article source: http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/cars/2014/07/26/cheapest-cars/13083883/

Car Talk: Former rental cars can be a good buy

Dear Tom and Ray: What are your thoughts on buying a car from a rental agency? Would you buy
one?

— Byr

Ray: Sure. Rental-car companies sell relatively new cars, and they maintain them pretty well.
After all, if anything’s broken, it has to be fixed before the next customer rents it.

Tom: And because the cars are pretty new, you often have years of warranty coverage left.

Ray: Used cars from rental companies used to be a great deal, because they would keep them only
for about six months, then turn them over for new ones. Now they keep them longer than that, but
they’re still almost-new cars.

Tom: The only exception I’d make is for “specialty” cars. There are some rental companies that
rent Camaros and Porsches for people who want to drive one for a day or a weekend. I wouldn’t buy a
car like that from a rental company.

Ray: Why? Because if you rent a Porsche for 24 hours, what are you going to do? You’re going to
drive it like an animal. So, cars like that have the potential to have been abused or driven very
hard by renters, without concern for their longevity.

Tom: But if you’re buying a family car — a Camry, Fusion, Altima, Focus, Civic — it’s unlikely
that anyone drove it abusively. It probably was driven to a hotel, and to a couple of meetings, and
then back to the airport.

Ray: The worst that happens to most of those cars is that a grande latte gets spilled on the
seat.

So give the passenger compartment a sniff test before you buy. But mechanically, a former rental
car should be a good bet.

Have a question about cars? Write to Click and Clack Talk Cars in care of King Feature
Syndicate Group, 300 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019.

Article source: http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/business/2014/07/26/former-rental-cars-can-be-a-good-buy.html

People keep leaving children in hot cars. This teen thinks her invention can help.


Alissa Chavez invented a system to alert parents when they’ve left a young child in a car seat. (Courtesy Alissa Chavez)

The unthinkable keeps happening.

The 18th hot car death of the year was recorded Thursday — on the same day that a national public service campaign kicked off to warn parents about the dangers of leaving kids in hot cars.

In the latest awful incident, a 10-month-old girl died in Wichita, Kan., after being left in a vehicle that was parked outside her foster parents’ house.

One New Mexico teenager’s invention might someday prevent such deaths.

Alissa Chavez, a 17-year-old from Albuquerque, said she has designed a car-seat alarm system that might prevent people from accidentally leaving young children in cars. She’s now trying to raise money to build a prototype.

Chavez, whose mother owns a day-care center, said she remembers hearing about three children who died in hot cars during  the summer before she was in eighth grade. “I felt that would be a good project for my eighth-grade science fair project — to find something to prevent those accidents from happening,” Chavez told The Washington Post on Friday.

She bought a door alarm from her local hardware store and tinkered with it to create a system that would alert parents if they left the vicinity of a young child who was still in a car seat.

Her project was a success (she won the science fair), and for the last three years, she’s been fine-tuning the design and creating a business plan.

The current version of the device uses pressure-sensor technology instead of vicinity technology. A parent places a sensor pad under the cover of a child car seat. The pad has a sensor that communicates with a key fob carried by the parent to determine how far the parent is from the vehicle. If the parent is more than 40 feet away from the vehicle, the pad will check to see if it feels the child in the seat. If it doesn’t, the alarms will not sound. If it does, then three alarms will go off — the key fob, a phone app and the vehicle alarm itself, which will alert everyone in the vicinity of the car.

Even though the invention is built to prevent hot car deaths, the pad is not sensitive to temperature, Chavez said. “I have found that it’s dangerous to leave a child in the car at any time,” she said.

Now, she said, she needs $20,000 to fund a prototype.

There is already demand for the kind of technology that Chavez has designed. On Friday, NBC reported, the public safety group Kids and Cars released a statement asking for car manufacturers to build technology to prevent hot car deaths.

“The fact is that our vehicles already remind us to buckle our seat belts, warn us if our gas tank is getting low, let us know if the keys are left in the ignition, or if a door is open,” the statement said. “With all of these reminder systems already in place, including a warning if our headlights are left on, who has decided that it’s more important not to have a dead car battery than a dead baby?”

Article source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/parenting/wp/2014/07/25/people-keep-leaving-children-in-hot-cars-this-teen-thinks-her-invention-can-help/

Iowa County says yes to driverless cars

IOWA CITY, Iowa — An eastern Iowa county is one of the first across the USA to open its arms to driverless cars.

Johnson County supervisors said Thursday they want the county on the forefront of research into autonomous vehicles, so they are allowing them on county streets. The cities of Coralville, Iowa City and North Liberty are expected to follow with their own resolutions.

Exactly when driverless vehicles will roll down the streets here can’t be predicted yet. But President Mark Nolte of the Iowa City Area Development Group said the discussion at the Automated Vehicles Symposium in San Francisco last week made one thing clear: “It is absolutely what is coming.”

Nolte was at the symposium to court companies like Google (NASDAQ: GOOG), which needs roads where it can hone its vehicle technology. He hopes to sell the technology giant on the University of Iowa, which houses the National Advanced Driving Simulator, as well as the state’s open spaces.

WEDNESDAY: Google dominates driverless car buzz, study shows
JUNE: Intel aims to cut costs of driverless cars

The national center, home to a range of simulators that offer varied levels of driving realism, has been conducting automated vehicle research for nearly 20 years.

After attending the symposium, Nolte said he thought driverless cars could hit the road within five to 10 years. But first, car companies must prove in a real environment that the cars can work effectively and safely.

“They need for the average person to see it go by and be cool with it,” he said. “It’s one thing to do this in a research facility. It’s another thing to put your kids in an unmanned vehicle and send them down the street.”

Johnson County is not tiny, about 140,000 people at last count, nor is it an intensely urban area. Iowa City is home to about 72,000 people, but the field of automated vehicle research is not new for the University of Iowa.

In the early 1990s, the advanced driving simulator evaluated an automated highway system for the U.S. Department of Transportation. More recently, the simulator has worked on a vehicle-to-vehicle communication project for the Federal Highway Traffic Safety Administration that allows cars to monitor the positions of other vehicles to avoid crashes.

The university’s driving simulator also has a longtime relationship with Swedish researchers and Volvo, which is working on a self-driving car project called “Drive Me,” said Daniel McGehee, director of the human factors and vehicle safety research division at the University of Iowa’s Public Policy Center.

Nolte said he thinks support for autonomous cars will come quickly.

“There will be a point that consumers want it,” he said. “That’s just technology today. Tablets didn’t exist, and then the iPad made it so every company needed to roll one out.”

MAY: Google’s self-driving car makes strides
MARCH: California pushes to finish driverless car rules

But plenty of obstacles litter the road ahead.

In an MIT Technology Review story, experts predicted autonomous cars would need decades driving as well as humans if they ever could. A story in London’s Guardian said the FBI has warned that driverless cars could be used as lethal weapons.

But that has not stemmed enthusiasm for them.

Iowa, which does not have any laws prohibiting the testing or operation of self-driving vehicles, would present fewer bureaucratic hurdles than other states, McGehee said.

Four states — California, Florida, Michigan and Nevada — have laws that allow driverless cars. California, Florida and Michigan’s laws permit vehicle testing; Michigan’s law requires a person to be in the car while it’s operating.

Iowa officials are looking at certifying infrastructure to ensure local roads could accommodate the vehicles, McGehee said. Essentially, all that would be required is good, high-contrast paint on the roads that the vehicles can detect.

“So there’s really no extra cost required for the infrastructure,” he said. “Self-driving cars rely on their own sensors — scanning lasers, radar and cameras — to understand what’s around them.”

Josh O’Leary also reports for the Iowa City (Iowa) Press-Citizen; Marco Santana also reports for The Des Moines Register.

Google is rolling out a fleet of compact electrically-powered driverless cars. Shannon Rae Green shares Google’s plans for the vehicles, completely controlled by sensors and software. Would you trust it?
(USA TODAY, USA NOW)

Article source: http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/cars/2014/07/25/iowa-driverless-cars/13159845/

Another mom charged with leaving kid in car sparks debate

On Tuesday, a 41-year-old Wayne County woman became the latest local parent to be criminally charged this summer for leaving her child unattended in a car.

Christine Slezak of Macedon was charged with endangering the welfare of a child, a misdemeanor, the Ontario County Sheriff’s Office said. Deputies said Slezak left her 7-year-old son alone in a hot, unlocked car with the windows open in a parking lot at Alex and Ani, a jewelry store near the Eastview Mall in Victor.

The incident is among many in the headlines this summer that raise a question for busy parents: Is it ever OK to leave a kid unattended in a vehicle, especially on a hot July day?

Even if not, should doing so be a criminal offense?

Local authorities warn parents not to chance it.

“Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle,” Ontario County Sheriff Philip Povero said Wednesday. “Not even for a minute. And don’t overlook a sleeping child in the rear seat upon leaving the car.”

But Lenore Skenazy, a public speaker, author and creator of the blog Free-Range Kids, said the fact that the car windows reportedly were open in the Victor incident suggests the boy was in minimal danger from the heat.

Instead, she saw the episode as an example of criminalizing a parent’s decision to leave a child unattended at all. She blamed fear of dangers that are unlikely, such as abductions.

left her 4-year-old son inside her parked car for about 2½ hours as she worked her shift at a TGI Fridays restaurant in Victor.

Thelma Louise Edwards, 22, faces charges of endangering the welfare of a child and aggravated unlicensed operation of a vehicle — both misdemeanors. Edwards, who remains in the Ontario County Jail, also faces a violation of operating a car without insurance.

On Tuesday, deputies charged Slezak with endangering the welfare of a child, but did not take her into custody. She was instead issued an appearance ticket and is expected to answer her charge in Victor Town Court at a later date.

The incident occurred around 7:20 p.m. Slezak had been shopping in the jewelry store for about 35 minutes when a passer-by spotted the boy and called 911, said Povero, the Ontario County sheriff. Deputies found the boy sleeping in the backseat, he said.

“He was very sweaty and deputies were having a difficult time raising him,” Povero said. The child also was checked over by emergency medical technicians.

According to the National Weather Service in Buffalo, the temperature in Rochester was 84 just before 7 p.m. after reaching a high of 88 two hours earlier.

In that environment, a child’s body heats up much faster than an adult’s, said Janette Fennell, founder and president of KidsandCars.org. The temperature inside a car also can spike about 20 degrees in just 10 minutes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Fennell, a former Honeoye Falls resident who now lives in Philadelphia, thinks such cases are getting more attention this summer, and she’s glad to see that. She worries not only about heatstroke, but children wandering off, knocking a car into gear and other potential dangers if left alone in a vehicle.

“I think what we’re seeing, which is really good … is to get involved,” she said. “Don’t just walk by and say, ‘Poor kid left in a hot car, it’s none of my business.’ “

KidsandCars.org says that at least 44 children last year and 17 so far this year died of heatstroke in vehicles across the U.S. Advocates like Fennell believe such incidents may be under-reported.

But Skenazy said unlike either Victor incident, most of those deaths involved parents who inadvertently forgot a child inside a car — a tragic but separate issue. She said many parents used to let their children wait briefly in cars.

“Our parents weren’t making dangerous decisions — they were making rational decisions,” she said. “I know that if my kid is waiting in the car for a little while and he’s 7 and he’s hot, he’ll open the door. I know that if the windows are open, it will be warm, but he’s not going to die.”

Fennell said the issue boils down to leaving the most precious thing in your life behind for convenience. “Would you leave a million dollars in your car?” she said.

Meanwhile, Lollypop Farm spokeswoman Adrienne McHargue said awareness seems to be rising about animals left in hot vehicles, too. “They’re both beings that can’t get out of the cars themselves, and I think that helpless feeling, people react to that,” she said.

Lollypop Farm, or the Humane Society of Greater Rochester, has three law enforcement officers dedicated to animal cruelty cases in Monroe, Genesee and Orleans counties. Reno Di Domenico, the society’s law enforcement director, said he has fielded 21 complaints about animals left in cars so far this year, compared with 52 all of last year.

Calls tend to spike when temperatures rise, he said.

Under a 2009 law, police can issue violations to owners who leave pets in vehicles in extreme hot or cold, presenting an imminent risk of physical injury or death. No one has been charged under that law so far this year, but at least two people were last year, Di Domenico said.

Whether they are concerned about a human or an animal, witnesses should call 911, authorities said.

“It’s just like if you saw someone having a heart attack,” Di Domenico said. “You call 911 first, and then you’re going to be starting CPR.”

For pets, people also can call Lollypop Farm’s animal cruelty hotline at (585) 223-6500.

To avoid forgetting a child in a car, parents can place a needed item — such as a purse or a shoe — in the rear seat. Even if the child has become quiet, retrieving the item will serve as a reminder.

Advocates also suggest keeping a large stuffed animal in a child’s car seat and moving it to the front passenger seat as another reminder when the child is in the vehicle.

Parents also can try to make checking the back seat before locking up part of their routine.

DRILEY@DemocratandChronicle.com

Twitter.com/rilzd

VFREILE@DemocratandChronicle.com

Twitter.com/vfreile

Article source: http://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/2014/07/23/hot-cars-kids-animals-christine-slezak-victor/13068471/